Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ODE ON THE DEFEAT OF KING SEBASTIAN OF PORTUGAL, by FERDINAND DE HERRERA



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ODE ON THE DEFEAT OF KING SEBASTIAN OF PORTUGAL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A voice of woe, a murmur of lament
Last Line: An ample tribute bear of afric's paynim blood.
Alternate Author Name(s): Herrera, Fernando De
Subject(s): Sebastian. King Of Portugal (1554-1578)


A VOICE of woe, a murmur of lament,
A spirit of deep fear and mingled ire;
Let such record the day, the day of wail
For Lusitania's bitter chastening sent!
She who hath seen her power, her fame expire,
And mourns them in the dust, discrowned and pale.
And let the awful tale
With grief and horror every realm o'ershade,
From Afric's burning main
To the far sea, in other hues arrayed,
And the red limits of the Orient's reign,
Whose nations, haughty though subdued, behold
Christ's glorious banner to the winds unfold.
Alas! for those that in embattled power,
And vain array of chariots and of horse,
O desert Libya! sought thy fatal coast!
And trusting not in Him, the eternal source
Of might and glory, but in earthly force,
Making the strength of multitudes their boast,
A flushed and crested host,
Elate in lofty dreams of victory, trode
Their path of pride, as o'er a conquered land
Given for the spoil; nor raised their eyes to God:
And Israel's Holy One withdrew his hand,
Their sole support; -- and heavily and prone
They fell -- the car, the steed, the rider, all o'erthrown!

It came, the hour of wrath, the hour of woe,
Which to deep solitude and tears consigned
The peopled realm, the realm of joy and mirth.
A gloom was on the heavens, no mantling glow
Announced the morn -- it seemed as nature pined,
And boding clouds obscured the sunbeam's birth;
While, startling the pale earth,
Bursting upon the mighty and the proud
With visitation dread,
Their crests the Eternal, in his anger bowed,
And raised barbarian nations o'er their head,
The inflexible, the fierce, who seek not gold,
But vengeance on their foes, relentless, uncontrolled.
Then was the sword let loose, the flaming sword
Of the strong infidel's ignoble hand,
Amidst that host, the pride, the flower, the crown
Of thy fair knighthood; and the insatiate horde,
Not with thy life content, O ruined land!
Sad Lusitania! even thy bright renown
Defaced and trampled down;
And scattered, rushing as a torrent-flood,
Thy pomp of arms and banners; -- till the sands
Became a lake of blood -- thy noblest blood! --
The plain a mountain of thy slaughtered bands.
Strength on thy foes, resistless might was shed;
On thy devoted sons -- amaze, and shame, and dread.

Are these the conquerors, these the lords of fight,
The warrior men, the invincible, the famed,
Who shook the earth with terror and dismay,
Whose spoils were empires? -- They that in their might
The haughty strength of savage nations tamed,
And gave the spacious Orient realms of day
To desolation's sway,
Making the cities of imperial name
E'en as the desert-place?
Where now the fearless heart, the soul of flame?
Thus has their glory closed its dazzling race
In one brief hour? Is this their valour's doom,
On distant shores to fall, and find not even a tomb?

Once were they, in their splendour and their pride,
As an imperial cedar on the brow
Of the great Lebanon! It rose, arrayed
In its rich pomp of foliage, and of wide
Majestic branches, leaving far below
All children of the forest. To its shade
The waters tribute paid,
Fostering its beauty. Birds found shelter there
Whose flight is of the loftiest through the sky,
And the wild mountain-creatures made their lair
Beneath; and nations by its canopy
Were shadowed o'er. Supreme it stood, and ne'er
Had earth beheld a tree so excellently fair.

But all elated, on its verdant stem,
Confiding solely in its regal height,
It soared presumptuous, as for empire born;
And God for this removed its diadem,
And cast it from its regions of delight,
Forth to the spoiler, as a prey and scorn,
By the deep roots uptorn!
And lo! encumbering the lone hills it lay,
Shorn of its leaves, dismantled of its state;
While, pale with fear, men hurried far away,
Who in its ample shade had found so late
Their bower of rest; and nature's savage race
'Midst the great ruin sought their dwelling-place.

But thou, base Libya! thou whose arid sand
Hath been a kingdom's death-bed, where one fate
Closed her bright life and her majestic fame, --
Though to thy feeble and barbarian hand
Hath fall'n the victory, be not thou elate!
Boast not thyself, though thine that day of shame,
Unworthy of a name!
Know, if the Spaniard in his wrath advance,
Aroused to vengeance by a nation's cry,
Pierced by his searching lance,
Soon shalt thou expiate crime with agony,
And thine affrighted streams to ocean's flood
An ample tribute bear of Afric's Paynim blood.





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